2007 “Hidden Gem” Mahei Huangpian – Bitterleaf Teas

Ahhh… huangpian. Either this is going to be an NSFW post or we’re talking about some delicious puerh. Maybe both?

Huangpian (黄片 – huangpian; literally “yellow leaf”) is the term for the larger and/or yellow leaves that are removed from maocha (毛茶 – maocha; literally “rough tea”) after processing, but before pressing.

Bitterleaf’s 2007 “Hidden Gem” Mahei Huangpian is a chance to try some semi-aged huangpian. This is a sheng puerh (生 – sheng, 普洱 – puerh) pressed into a 357 gram disk shape (餅 – bing; literally “cake”).

Snagged from www.bitterleafteas.com

Mahei (麻黑 – mahei; literally “black hemp”) is a part of the Yiwu region, so I’d expect a few similarities to other local Yiwu flavors like Mansa, etc. The dry leaves are pretty crispy, large, and brown.

Dry leaves…

Steeping

I’m using boiling water for this session; rinsed the leaves one time quickly just to get rid of any residuals. The first steep was for 10 seconds. I tend to push huangpian just because the large leaves can handle it, unlike smaller grade leaves or younger shengs. It came out pretty watery, unfortunately. I guess the leaves didn’t really open yet, which is interesting, since most of the leaves were already flat and large.

Let’s get it started in here…

Based on that, I made steep two for 15 seconds… And now it’s sour. Definitely a by-product of the wet storage. Wet storage has a distinctive musty smell and a sourness when overstepped at the start of a session. There’s a great residual sweetness, but it’s still very watery.

Steep three.. Another 10 seconds. Much, much better this time. The liquor has a good viscosity, lots of honey notes. The storage still lingers through a hint of sourness and astringency on the sides of the back of the tongue.

Pour-n

The fourth and fifth steeps escalate the sweetness, bringing in the soft taste of red apple peels. Nothing overwhelming in the mouth, but a full flavor. As expected for huangpian, there’s not much in the way of astringency or bitterness, but the sweetness is the star.

#catarmy

The Later Steeps

The steeps don’t change much from here. The flavor keeps with the muted taste from before; nothing complex, nothing unexpected. The tea is great to drink without much thought. The steeps wane, for me, around steep nine. After that, my taste buds are bored, per the usual. Honey and apple peels win the day.

Finishing the Session

Here’s the final verdict for me. I’m glad I have a cake of this tea. I love huangpian for its simplicity. This one has deep feelings of batabatacha due to the wet storage of the tea. At $0.35/g, it’s not a bad deal if this is your kind of tea. It’s probably not one that I’d go out of my way to but more of – a cake will be enough to taste as the years roll by.

Lots of leaf!

All in all, this tea firmly stands as a decent example of semi-aged huangpian. There are no bad storage flavors and the tea brews up well after the initial hurdle. Take your time with this tea. You might just find a gem hidden inside your cup.

Until the next cup.

2016 “Year of the Monkey” Spring Yiwu – Bitterleaf Teas

I’m about to make a lot of assumptions and draw a lot of conclusions. Buckle up.

Today is a special day. I’m writing this post from the airport on my phone. I’m headed to the scenic northwest United States 1.) To travel, and 2.) To visit some tea friends. This will mean fewer posts over the next two weeks.

Today’s tea review is of the 2016 “Year of the Monkey” Spring Yiwu from Bitterleaf Teas, or, as I like to call it, the “smoking monkey.”

I’ve mentioned yiwu teas many times. One of my favorite teas is a 2003 yiwu. Yiwu is one of the six famous tea mountains, though today it’s probably the most famous. 

The 2016 “Year of the Monkey” comes in a 357 gram bing.

The dry leaf is floral and immediately catches my attention. All of my favorite yiwu notes are present in the scent. I only mention this because out of all the 2016 yiwu teas that I’ve tried, this seems to be the most on point. All of the other yiwu teas have been “blends” of some sort… but what are they blended with?

Let’s get it started

Steeping

From the rinse, you can tell this is going to be a spectacular tea. When you drink enough puerh, you can get a true sense of a tea without drinking a ton of it. Sure, you don’t get all the nuance and there might be unexpected flavors, but sometimes, you just know.

The first steep, I let go for a longer than average time, about 15 seconds. No bitterness. No astringency. Just perfect and classic yiwu flavors. 

Deliciously Yiwu 

Okay, now you can ask. “What are classic yiwu flavors?”

I’m glad you asked. To me, classic yiwu has notes of wood, floral, sweetness, and minerals. The mineral taste usually comes from the nearby rivers, etc. but I’m sure there are plenty of other contributing factors.

Steeps Two through Five

This tea is as exquisite as it is simple. The notes are soft. You have to listen to the tea. You can’t oversteep it (I’m sure you could, technically, but you’d have to try hard). 

The build of flavors, the lack of bitterness, and only a hint of astringency through the heart of the session. I can’t even give you details about each steep in a way that will make sense. This tea is an experience that must be felt.

By the fourth steep, I’m sweating like crazy. The energy hides in the tea and jumps out at you when you least expect it. There are no signs of slowing down; the flavor keeps escalating in only the best way possible.

Amazing tea so far

Finishing the Session

My least informative review, by far, but perhaps one of the best teas of the year (2016 harvest, not 2016 releases). The tea starts it’s decrease around 8 steeps and lasts for a little while longer. The longevity isn’t a problem, since it’s a young tea. 

Til we meet again

There are few teas that I’m blown away by, but this is one of them. I’m so glad to have a whole cake… maybe more is needed. For now, I’m just glad I threw another helping in my bag to have on my trip.

Until the next cup.